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Sat 12 Sep 2009 11:58 AM

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Saudi watchdog okays Almarai's $253.2m bid for Hadco

Almarai-Hail Agricultural Development Co merger to be decided by shareholders.

Saudi-based Almarai's  $253.2m cash and stock bid for
Hail Agricultural Development Co (Hadco)

has obtained regulatory approval, leaving the merger's fate up to the shareholders.

A conclusive end to the bid, which was initially unveiled in July would give the Saudi stock exchange, the Arab world's largest, its first takeover involving listed companies.

Mergers and takeovers among listed firms are a rare sight in Saudi Arabia, due mainly to the pre-eminence of both day-trading and retail investors.

The Capital Market Authority (CMA) said at least 50 percent of shareholders in
Hadco

, would need to approve
Almarai

's proposal for the deal to go through.

The two firms have fixed a Nov. 30 deadline for conclusion of the agreement.

Hadco

shares closed the previous session at 30.1 riyals, which matched exactly
Almarai

's bid, and was 2.7 percent its level since the two companies' boards agreed to the takeover terms on July 1.

Almarai

had to improve an initial bid it made in November by 35.3 percent.

The deal is crucial for
Almarai

, which is the Middle East's biggest dairy firm, because it would give it an entry into the lucrative poultry business.

According to Dubai-based
Shuaa Capital

, Hadco is the kingdom's fourth largest poultry producer.

In addition to being a key domestic player in the poultry business,
Hadco

produces olives, wheat, dates and grass fodder. Almarai has its own cattle farms.

Almarai

has been diversifying its revenues through acquisitions and has earmarked 6 billion riyals ($1.6bn) for investments to expand outside the Gulf Arab region. ($1=3.75 riyals) (Reuters)

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